Make a leg: Prosthetic limb maker, Puspadi Bali, is almost entirely staffed by disabled people who understand life from a different perspective. The prosthetics and wheelchairs they supply change lives for the better, opening doors to employment and education.
Showbiz’s “break a leg” good luck wish was flipped on its head recently during a one-off musical recital in Sanur.
Held in the hall of the Bali Island School, the Music for a Cause concert for Puspadi Bali was a fund-raiser for an organization that literally makes legs for amputees. Puspadi staff understand exactly what that requires with most of them either born without limbs or living their lives as amputees.
Starring in the production was US baritone Anthony Brown and a home-grown tenor from the Central Javanese town of Surakarta, . Both of these fine artists believe that through music people can come together in peace and charity.
For Brown, it was during a trip to post war-torn-Bosnia that confirmed his belief in the power of music as an agent of peace.
“I was performing in a standing room only theater in Sarajevo in 2002. The crowd was made up of Muslims, Christians and Jews, Serbians and Croatians. At the end of the concert I sang He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, and the crowd erupted — people all together singing,” says Brown. The moment would lead Brown to found the Peacing It Together foundation, an organization that travels the world bringing the message of peace through music.
“I had seen in Sarajevo for the first time what the power of music could do,” says the internationally renowned baritone. And Brown has worked to bring his message to countries engulfed in turmoil such as Ghana and Indonesia.
As well as singing for peace, Brown teaches social work at Hesston College in Kansas. It was here that he met the young tenor Galed and recognized that the two of them saw the world through a similar lens with a shared love of music and humanitarian work.
Galed discovered the healing power in song as child of the Yogyakarta earthquake in 2005.
“One of my family’s traditions is volunteer work, so at the time of the Yogya earthquake, in my heart I wanted to help, I wanted to volunteer in the field, to do something meaningful,” says Galed, who was a 10-year-old in Surakarta at the time of the quake that devastated his home city.
“I was born in Yogyakarta and spent my first eight years there, so I had many friends I knew would be suffering. But what can a 10-year-old do? I thought ‘I am small, weak, but I really wanted to help because these people were my friends and that was my hometown’,” said Galed, who was soon working with children of the quake, sharing music and games to try and alleviate some of their suffering and trauma.
“One thing I really remember of the quake was feeling like a refugee, so I understood exactly what they eat, where they live and what they are doing, so that gave me the understanding of being a refugee and I found singing made the kids feel better.” Galed went on to win a scholarship to Hesston College where he studies music and social work.
He had discovered early in life that people suffering deprivation through natural disasters, social upheaval or wars needed more than simply food and shelter.
“I saw that physically people can be healed after these tragedies, but they also need spiritual healing and I saw that by singing together that could begin. You need to heal people inside, not only on the outside,” said Galed, adding that this was one of the reasons that he, Brown and Hesston College Chorale conductor and pianist, Ken Rodgers, were happy to participate in the Puspadi fund-raiser in Sanur.
This theme of music as a medium to share the full range of human experience was highlighted by the concert’s MC, Jack Daniels, who asked the audience to walk a mile in Puspadi’s clients’ prostheses to gain a deeper understanding of the daily challenges they face.
Song choices by the artists also drove home the urgency of world’s dire need for greater justice and compassion.
Brown’s rendition of Old Man River was prefaced with the singer’s view that this great and muddy river “that just keeps rolling along”, is analogous to pushing through the adversities and harshness of life. The Galed-Brown duet, Wade in the Water is a song about the coded language employed by runaway slaves and the song, Each Other’s Light, calls on people to see each other not as racially, culturally or religiously separate, but instead of one light.
“This song is a message of hope, that we are more similar than different. Each Other’s Light was written by a friend of mine, her father is Palestinian, her mother a Mennonite,” says Brown, reflecting on a concert that was a gift of music that will help “make legs”, other prosthetics and wheelchairs for the more than 3,000 people who are assisted by Puspadik.
— Photos by J.B.Djwan